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Congress hits out at draft IT rules — ‘Modi govt has anointed itself judge, jury & executioner’

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera accused Modi government of 'muzzling' critical voices. Draft IT rules make PIB final authority on declaring any news as 'fake'.

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New Delhi: The Congress party (INC), the principal Opposition party in Parliament, has denounced the central government’s draft IT rules which would make it incumbent on social media platforms and websites to take down content deemed “fake” by the Press Information Bureau (PIB). Hitting out at the Modi government, the Congress remarked that “IT” now stands for “Image Tailoring” as far as the government was concerned.

A nodal body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) for the dissemination of news, PIB also has a fact-checking unit.

“The Modi government has anointed itself judge, jury and executioner of online content regulation,” Pawan Khera, chairman of the Congress’s media and publicity wing, told reporters Thursday at a press conference in New Delhi.

Speaking to ThePrint later, Khera said that the “definition of IT has now changed”.

“IT (draft IT rules) are Image Tailoring rules. Anyone who questions this government or shows it a mirror, whether it is mainstream media or social media, the government wants to muzzle voices,” he said. Khera also said the Congress will raise this issue in Parliament during the upcoming Budget session.

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) proposed an amendment to the Information Technology Rules 2021 suggesting that news identified as “fake” by PIB’s fact-checking unit will have to be removed from social media platforms.

The MeitY introduced this draft amendment on the heels of its decision to extend the time for public consultation on regulation for online gaming.

“While extending the consultation period for the draft amendments till 25 January, the Modi government slyly added a provision that states that any news report that may be deemed fit as ‘false’ or be checked as ‘fake’ or ‘false’ by the ‘fact-checking unit’ of the PIB can be taken down from the social media/online website/ OTT platforms by the government,” Khera said during the press conference Thursday.

He cited an example of a video tweeted by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to suggest that after “Godi Media” (lapdog media), the central government now wants a “Godi Social Media”.

The video, said Khera, showed Bharani Bhanu Prasad — a “member of the South Central Railway Employees’ Sangh” — telling Gandhi that “railway stations, workshops, medical centres, and establishments will be privatised”. Prasad’s remarks were in response to Gandhi’s question about “which part of the Indian Railways is being privatised”.

Khera alleged that the PIB “converted a free-wheeling discussion about an important issue concerning the common people and railway workers into fake news”.

“Tomorrow, if these IT rules are applied, this tweet by a leader of the principal Opposition party will be taken down, thus resulting in the destruction of democracy,” he declared.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: When Rahul Gandhi met his ‘match’ — meet UP’s Faisal Choudhary, who’s causing a stir at Bharat Jodo


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